Former England defence coach Mike Ford is to work in a consultancy capacity for both Leeds Carnegie and Newcastle Falcons.
Ford has been holding informal sessions with Championship side Leeds since his return from World Cup duty with England.
Ford was released by the Rugby Football Union before Christmas and Leeds had been in negotiations ever since to make that arrangement more formal.
Yesterday, however, Newcastle announced that Ford would be the Falcons new defence coach, working under the club’s new director of rugby, Gary Gold, following the departure of Alan Tait.
But Leeds countered yesterday by insisting that Ford would continue to be available to them on a consultancy basis, with the arrangement continuing to be as and when diaries and necessities dictate.
It is a significant coup for Leeds to retain a respected coach who has helped shore up their defence.
Yet it does raise the question of whether there is a conflict of interests for Ford, with Leeds battling to win promotion to the Premiership and Newcastle favourites to be relegated.
Mike is not the only Ford Leeds are currently sharing.
His 18-year-old son, George, who was named last year’s IRB junior player of the season, has been recalled by parent club Leicester for the Tigers’ Heineken Cup trip to Ulster this weekend.
Ford played twice for Leeds in their recent victories over London Scottish and Moseley and was always going to be called up at the end of the month to play for England’s Under-20s in their Six Nations campaign. It is unknown if he will be available for the club’s Championship date with Bedford on January 29, or how strong Leeds’ chances of getting him back after the Six Nations are.
The Leeds duo of Chris Walker and Dominic Barrow have also been selected for England Under- 20s.
In yet more disruptions to coach Diccon Edwards’s planning for the trip to Plymouth tomorrow, he has lost three more of his loan players.
Prop Kane Palma-Newport has been called back by Bath following David Wilson’s selection in England’s elite player squad.
Sale half-back duo Will Cliff and Jordan Davies have also returned to help Sale satisfy the regulation that demands an average of 14 English players must be in the squad per month.
Edwards said: “We are extremely grateful to Sale, Leicester and Bath for firstly allowing the players to come to us on loan and we are confident they will return to their clubs having developed during their time with us.
“Will and Jordan will be back with us for the Bedford game whilst the hope is still that George will come back to us after the Under-20 Six Nations have been completed, but obviously that decision lies with Leicester.”
To balance it out, club captain Andy Titterrell has returned to Leeds because he is not registered to play European rugby.
Sale chief Steve Diamond has been charged by the RFU with verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes and assistants Rhys Davies and Gareth Copsey at the end of their Premiership game at London Irish.